Do You Know What Causes Gum Disease?

Gum disease (known in medical parlance as periodontitis)  is one of the commonest dental ailments in humans.

The presentation of gum disease might range from just a mildly harmful inflammation to more serious dental problems that can include severe damage to the soft tissues of the teeth, which in chronic cases, leads to tooth loss. This difference in severity typically depends on how well the tooth and gums are cared for.

The mild form of gum disease usually manifests as an inflammation (swelling, redness along with irritation) at the part of the gum that surround the base of the tooth. It is called gingivitis. In this condition, the gums are characteristically red, swollen, painful and susceptible to bleeding.

Gingivitis does not lead to the loss of the soft tissue and bones of the teeth and will usually resolve if you brush and floss twice daily, plus going in for oral checkup at your dentist.

However if the gingivitis is left untreated, it progresses to a more severe gum disease (periodontitis) and even periodontal disease. In this condition, the soft tissues and bones of the teeth can get damaged.

Several factors both cause gum disease and predispose an individual to having gum disease. These factors include:

  1. Plaque: Plaque build up around the teeth is one very common cause of gum disease. A plaque is a localized collection or focus of bacteria which forms around gums and teeth. It is most often due to a poor oral hygiene. When you fail to brush or floss your teeth daily, it leaves a fertile ground for bacterial growth. If this bacterial growth continues, it forms a plaque which, if not gotten rid off ontime, can affect the integrity of the soft tissues and bones of the teeth. This condition is often reversed by brushing correctly with good tooth brush (click here), making use of an interdental brush (click here) and flossing (click here) regularly.
  2. Smoking: Smoking, especially if done often, interferes with the normal functions of gum tissue cells. Since the gums are a major part of the supporting structure of the teeth, your teeth becomes more susceptible to infections, subsequently leading to gum disease.
  3. Hormonal Shifts: For some reason hormone shifts during certain times of life, such as during the menstrual cycle or pregnancy, can make the gums more susceptible to periodontal disease. However, being in your menstrual cycle or expecting a baby does not necessarily mean you will have gum disease, so you need not be overly worried. You only need to pay more attention to your oral health. Hence, take proactive steps towards caring for your teeth and gums.
  4. Prescription Medications: Some medications do have a rather undesirable effect of reducing the secretion of saliva by the salivary glands. Saliva apart from keeping the mouth moist and aiding in swallowing, also has some bactericidal actions. Thus, when saliva production is low, the mouth becomes dry and susceptible to bacterial infections. Drink lots of water to keep your mouth moist and encourage saliva secretion. It is also a good idea to talk to your dentist about any medication you take that dries out your saliva.
  5. Nutritional Deficiencies: There are certain important nutrients for maintaining good oral health, which when deficient, can leave one susceptible to gum disease. One such nutrient is vitamin C. Vitamin C is readily available in citrus fruits and most green, leafy vegetables. Vitamin C hastens wound healing and is also anti-inflammatory. Thus, for good oral health, you should eat lots of vitamin C containing fruits and vegetables.
  6. Crooked Teeth: If you have crooked, overlapping, misaligned or a rotated teeth, then you are at high risk of getting gum disease. The reason behind this is quite simple. With misalignment, there are more gaps for plaque to fill and build up around your teeth. Thus, creating a fertile environment for the development of gum disease. To prevent this, you should take extra care in brushing and flossing those areas of misalignment.
  7. Family History: If either of your parents (your mum or dad) or just maybe anyone in your family line, but most likely the former, has had gum disease in the past, you are most likely to have gum disease. The reason for this is purely genetic. Thus, if you notice a history of gum disease in your family line,  you should pay extra attention to your oral hygiene.

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